Senior Panthers drop first Bay of Quinte game in three years

SNIDER STARS- PECI senior Panther basketball player Madalynn Snider saw her 2019-20 athletic endeavors honoured by a share of the annual Female Senior Athlete of the Year award. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette file photo).

Garden believes adversity of 32-27 setback at Centre Hastings will serve his team well down stretch




The PECI Senior Basketball Panthers had to lose eventually in Bay of Quinte Conference basketball after two unbeaten seasons. That day came Friday in Centre Hastings.

The Panthers dropped a 32-27 decision to a confident Centurions team that appeared to know just how to strike at their weakness. The home side drove the key hard, early and often, relying on two powerful girls — Jayden Forestell and Amy Rinaldi — to score points or take fouls. The pair had 17 of Centre Hastings 21 first-half points, including seven points from the line.

“They’re a big team. They pound the ball low and they shoot free throws really well. We shot maybe four free throws all game and I think they hit 12 or 14,” Panthers coach Rob Garden said. “We’re not a big team and that’s something we’re going to have to learn to play against.”

A four-point difference in first quarters was the largest margin in any of the game’s stanzas as the Panthers looked a bit uncomfortable moving the ball and forcing shots that weren’t there. The rest of the way, they were within two points and going into the fourth quarter trailed by just four.

If there is such a thing as a good loss, Garden said this was it.

Driving to the hoop -PECI Panther Jessie Swackhammer attacks against Centre Hastings Centurion Lauren Kennedy during Friday’s game in Madoc. Swackhammer tied for a game-high 12 points, but the Panthers couldn’t generate enough offence to match the Centurions’ power game. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

“We didn’t have any ball luck. I just said to them it’s not too often that I’m happy with a loss, but I’m actually OK that this team lost a game. We haven’t faced adversity yet,” he said. “Our four Grade 12s got to experience a great season last year. This year, we need them to step up and be leaders and until you lose and go through some adversity, you can’t learn how to do that.”

To counter teams like Centre Hastings using their size, Garden said the Panthers have to shoot the ball. If they don’t, he said things tighten up and it’s hard to find other options. Still the coach was impressed with the resiliency some of his players showed fighting the clock.

“Jessie Swackhammer came on and gave us some life and I give Chloe Marshall a lot of credit too. They lead in different ways. It’s just going to take one or two girls to take charge of a game and give us confidence. In this game, particularly, I felt they were our strongest leaders.”

Garden said he has full confidence in his team, but it may take them longer to reach their peak than anticipated. He also believes the jolt from the loss will serve them well.

“We were coasting. We were kind of floating through the league again this year and that was our wake-up call. There are some good teams out there. We’re not the No. 1 team. We have to fight and maybe take a different mentality as the underdog and I think that will suit us.”

Swackhammer matched Forestell with game highs of 12 points. Rinaldi had 11 for Centre Hastings, while Sydney Davies was PECI’s next highest scorer with six points. Mikayla Leavitt had five.

The loss dropped the Panthers to 2-1. On Thursday, they won their first contest against the Eastside Ravens — the team formed by the amalgamation of Moira and Quinte — 47-11. Swackhammer had 15 points.

The Panthers are now off until Oct. 16 when they host Bayside. Garden said it’s been a difficult schedule this season with long breaks in the action. They’ll have to find a groove with four tough squads, the Devils, St. Theresa Titans, Centennial Chargers, and Nicholson Crusaders still ahead before playoffs.